Serhiy Zhadan to receive the 2022 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
The Board of Trustees, of which Börsenverein chairwoman Karin Schmidt-Friderichs is president, issued the following statement with regard to their choice:
“We honour this Ukrainian author and musician for his outstanding artistic work as well as for his unequivocal humanitarian stance, which repeatedly motivates him to risk his own life to help people affected by war and thus to call greater attention to their plight. In his novels, essays, poems and lyrics, Serhiy Zhadan introduces us to a world that has experienced radical change yet continues to live on tradition. His stories illustrate how war and destruction enter into this world and turn people’s lives upside down. Throughout his entire oeuvre, he uses a unique language that provides us with a vivid and differentiated portrait of the reality that many of us chose to disregard for far too long. Thoughtfully and with the precision of a true listener, in a poetic and radical tone, Serhiy Zhadan reveals how the people of Ukraine defy the violence around them, striving instead to lead independent lives rooted in peace and freedom”.
Serhiy Zhadan, who was born on 23 August 1974 in Starobilsk, Luhansk Oblast, in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, is one of the most important, innovative and best-known voices in contemporary Ukrainian literature. He studied literature, Ukrainian studies and German studies in Kharkiv and received his doctorate with a thesis on Ukrainian Futurism in 1996. From the early 1990s on, he shaped Kharkiv’s cultural scene, organising literary and music festivals and publishing novels, poems, short stories and essays.
Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Zhadan has been active in a number of social and cultural projects in eastern Ukraine, which is partly occupied by pro-Russian separatists. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022, he stepped up his own efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the affected regions.
In his early literary works, Zhadan undertakes an intensive exploration of the upheavals associated with the post-Soviet era. His third novel, »Die Erfindung des Jazz im Donbass« (tr. The invention of jazz in Donbas, Ukrainian edition, 2010; German edition, 2012), functions as a kind of ‘road novel’ set in the Donbas industrial region, to which the author lends a poetical charge by means of surreal elements and an anarchic narrative style, thereby providing a backdrop for the quest to find some kind of home in a world of increasingly dissolving frontiers. The Ukrainian BBC chose this work as its »Book of the Decade«. Zhadan’s books have been translated into numerous languages and received a number of international prizes, including the Brücke Berlin Award for Literature and Translation and the Vasyl Stus Prize from the Ukrainian PEN Centre. His most recent novel »The Orphanage« (Ukrainian edition, 2017; English edition, 2021) is a convincing account of the conflict in Donbas; a teacher travelling through the war zone in a dense fog repeatedly gets caught between the front lines and is ultimately confronted with the question of whether one can remain neutral in times of war. The German translation of the novel, »Internat« (2018), was awarded the top prize for translation at the Leipzig Book Fair that year.
Zhadan writes in Ukrainian and has translated poetry from German, English, Belarusian and Russian into Ukrainian. He also writes lyrics for various rock bands and has been the singer of the Ukrainian band »Sobaki v kosmosi« (»Dogs in Space«) since 2007.
The Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation he launched in 2017 works to support educational and cultural initiatives in eastern Ukraine and is only one example of the author’s intensive social and cultural activism, which he stepped up even further in the wake of the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. He continues to live in Kharkiv, where he organises concerts, rescues civilians from gunfire and shelling, gives poetry readings and distributes aid in the city. His most recent articles on the situation in Ukraine provide up-to-the-minute documents on how the people living in the affected areas seek to go about their daily lives in the face of violence and threats.
The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize is made up of Klaus Brinkbäumer, Prof. Dr. Peter Dabrock, Prof. Dr. Raphael Gross, Prof. Dr. Moritz Helmstaedter, Dr. Nadja Kneissler, Felicitas von Lovenberg, Prof. Dr. Ethel Matala de Mazza, Prof. Bascha Mika and Karin Schmidt-Friderichs.
The award ceremony will take place on Sunday 24 October 2022 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main. The event will be broadcast live on German public television (ARD) at 10:45 am. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.